Those familiar with IEN know that we periodically adjust our site and our content as our ideas and goals evolve. Most recently, we redesigned the site in order to make it easier to see and scan our posts on the main page and to provide more direct links to other sites with related content and resources. Essentially, you’ll find our latest posts in the center, related links on the left, and our twitter feed and search tools on the right. While our focus will remain on sharing links to news and research, over the next few months, Deirdre Faughey and I expect to experiment with more posts of our own, noting and reflecting on the news and research we are finding as we scan social media around the world for work related to educational policy and educational change. When possible, we will also be linking to comments and commentaries from our colleagues from other countries.
These developments reflect our continuing effort to promote constructive discussions about what’s new, what’s good, and what’s effective in education in different contexts. That goal and this project grew out of a year I spent in Norway with my family experiencing and studying the Norwegian educational system. While there, I found numerous opportunities to learn about key issues and concerns about education and educational improvement in Scandinavia as well as in other parts of Europe. But when I returned to the United States I quickly found myself immersed again in the continuing and often polarizing debates in the US and felt cut off from the many different kinds of educational discussions and the different perspectives I encountered the previous year. In response, I created IEN with the express purpose of providing access to some of the news, research, and diverse perspectives on educational policy and educational change outside the US. Ideally, sharing some of what’s happening in educational policy around the world – and, I hope, raising questions about what “counts” as new, good, and effective – can encourage discussions that go beyond the educational constraints of current educational systems and the often limited debates about how to improve them.
While I initially thought that there would be a wealth of conversations and examinations of education that we could tap into, engaging in this project over the past year or so has highlighted both the possibilities and challenges for using social media to learn from what’s going on in other parts of the world. In terms of benefits and possibilities, using social media provides:
- Access to many different kinds of sources and to diverse perspectives, ideas, and information that are often hard to come by in more traditional, national media
- Opportunities to engage with people with whom we might never come into contact in our own locales and professional spheres
- Speed for sharing information and links immediately, without having to wait to go through a conventional publishing process
However, these same characteristics also create problems for any effort to promote constructive and grounded exchanges of views and ideas:
- Access is not automatic. Although information of all kinds is available, it takes considerable work to find news and research related to educational policy in many different contexts. The quality and veracity of the information varies; some contexts may have few if any sources for developing reports and research; and even when sources are available information and ideas may be inaccessible without local knowledge or knowledge of local languages
- Opportunity to learn does not guarantee understanding. Examining information and ideas from different contexts does not in and of itself make it easier to understand diverse perspective and different points of view. It’s difficult to recognize the possible contributions of diverse perspectives, particularly when they are far beyond the mainstream. Translations, framing and contextualizing may be needed in order to make information and accessible to wide audiences across countries and cultures. But those same efforts can reduce and remove the local variations that are central to the kinds of learning this work seeks to promote.
- Speed can lead to the spread of false information and premature conclusions. The demand for currency, immediacy and relevance leaves little time for deep investigation, checking of sources, or discovery of alternate points of view.
Our hope is that by taking advantage of the possibilities of social media while remaining conscious of the problems, we can contribute to the development and recognition of new vehicles and forums for sharing ideas and for learning from one another about educational policy and educational improvement. Ultimately, some new mix or yet unimagined forms of journalism and scholarship may be required. To that end, we invite you to share with us resources and sources for information and links to educational news and research that we have not yet come across and point us as well to places and people whose work we can share. (or with whom we should connect?). While traditional outlets can continue to yield important and useful information about education, we also need opportunities to see beyond our own borders and into the many different local settings where educational policy and practice meet.